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What is a Chinese Evergreen?

Helga George
Helga George

Chinese evergreen is a nearly indestructible houseplant that prefers to grow under very low levels of light, such as on the north side of buildings. It is also known as Aglaonema and is a member of the arum family, Araceae. There are a number of plants in this genus, which all prefer warm, moist growing conditions. In addition to being a common house and office plant, the Chinese evergreen is also grown as an herbaceous perennial plant in the tropics.

These ornamentals generally remain fairly small, reaching at most 4.9 ft (1.5 m). Most plants grow no more than 1.6 ft (0.5 m) high. This makes them ideal for table tops or windowsills, preferably in shadow-less north light. It is one of the most shade-loving plants that one can grow.

The leaves can be solid green or variegated, depending on the species. The flowers are inconspicuous spathes, such as those of the calla lily. They are usually followed by red berries.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Chinese evergreen plants are very durable foliage plants and can survive neglect. They can often be grown for many years. These plants require warm temperatures, however. Ideally, temperatures at night should remain above 60°F (15.6°C) and should go no lower than 50°F (10°C). Day temperatures of 65-80°F (18.3-26.7°C) are recommended.

Aglaonema plants prefer to continually be kept barely moist. They can even be grown in water for long periods of time. The plants should be watered less frequently during the winter. Chinese evergreen plants tend to thrive under conditions of high humidity.

Newly purchased Chinese evergreen plants should not be fertilized for four to six months. After this time, they should be fertilized every four months. They can be repotted at any time. The best soil to use is potting mix that contains a lot of humus.

There are several ways to propagate these plants. One way is by taking cuttings off the tip. Another is by air-layering. Yet another is by division. Propagation can be done at any season.

Aglaonema species originated in tropical Asia. They are used as a garden plant in tropical areas, such as Hawaii. Due to their intolerance to sun, they must be grown in shady areas.

There are several things to be aware of when growing Aglaonema. The sap is toxic like that of the dumb cane, or Dieffenbachia. It can cause skin, mouth, and throat irritation. Another issue is that drops of liquid from the leaf tips can stain wood finishing. This is particularly true for Aglaonema modestum.

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